Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Kevin Feige:
My Movie Life

The Marvel supremo's pick of the flicks
Want To Be An Empire Journalist?
Find out how here
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Naomi Watts
Edward Norton
Liev Schreiber
Toby Jones
Diana Rigg.
Directors
John Curran.
Screenwriters
Ron Nyswaner.
Running Time
125 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Honeymoon
3 Star Empire Rating
Last Impresario, The
3 Star Empire Rating
I Origins
4 Star Empire Rating
Soul Boys Of The Western World
4 Star Empire Rating
What We Did On Our Holiday
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Two Days, One Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Some Like It Hot
5 Star Empire Rating
A Hard Day's Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Boyhood
5 Star Empire Rating

The Painted Veil
Love in a time of cholera for Edward Norton and Naomi Watts


submit to reddit


Plot
China, 1925: Bacteriologist Dr. Walter Fane (Norton) jealously ends his spoilt wife Kitty’s (Watts) adulterous affair by making her accompany him to a remote province where a cholera epidemic rages. Amid hostility and disease, the couple rediscover purpose, and each other.


Review
The Painted Veil
Browse more images »

Time was you could count on scandalous misbehaviour in intemperate climes in the scads of melodramas adapted from W. Somerset Maugham’s tales: Bette Davis gunning down her lover in The Letter; Joan Crawford undoing a missionary in Rain; colonial Brits in the mysterious Orient succumbing to exoticism, humidity and gin, that whole decadence of a dying Empire thing. Edward Norton spent six years (and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner even longer) getting this Maugham romance of revenge and redemption made without lowering themselves to such florid goings-on. Which is kind of a shame. It’s finely done, but appeals more to the head than the heart.
 
The treatment is a world away from torrid, with beautiful Chinese vistas and vivid local colour contrasting with the central characters’ very internalised conflict. There is sex, betrayal and passion along with the parasols and cocktails, to be sure. But there is a coolness about it that is almost clinical.
 
The performances are faultless but distant. Norton is a Civil Service stiff, at ease only in his lab. His rage and vindictiveness when he discovers his wife’s affair come as a shock, but almost make him as unsympathetic as Watts’ party girl, who married him on petulant impulse. It is plausibly, quietly, unspectacularly by inches that he earns re-evaluation as he steps up amid tragic travail, and that she earns her forgiveness. Their co-stars are terrific. Toby Jones is a raffish delight as the “deputy commissioner to the back of beyond” type, sustaining himself with plenty of whisky, opium and filthy foreign sex. Liev Schreiber’s pores ooze oily charm as the “career diplomat at the Shanghai consulate” type, with his practised line in serial seduction all too easily captivating Kitty. The surprise bonus is Diana Rigg as a no-nonsense nun rearing orphans, nursing contagious peasants and bucking up Kitty with some marvellous life wisdom.
 
The screenplay and direction find intriguing detail and nuances that weren’t even in the book, let alone the previous film versions (in their days Greta Garbo and Eleanor Parker both played the strayed wife rolling up her sleeves and wringing out the face cloths to redeem herself). But it needed a hearty fire under it, not the low-burning flame of earnest, intellectual intent.


Verdict
Handsomely crafted, with meticulous performances, yet it plays out drily and in monotone.


Reviewed by Angie Errigo


Related Reviews
Sounds
Painted Veil, The
 

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Painted Veil
Empire Star Rating

RE: The Painted Veil

I thought this was a very well made film with good performances but the soundtrack was the real standout for me, thought the score was excellent throughout. ... More

Posted by mackey at 19:42, 18 July 2008 | Report This Post


RE: The Painted Veil

I watched this film last Saturday night and to be honest I was more than a bit disappointed. The cinematography and clothes were beautiful, but the film in my opinion was a big bore! Also I feel Kitty and Walter's relationship could have been better developed, although Edward Norton and Naomi Watts gave good perfomances, complete with a believable British accent from Norton. Also the ending of the film was trying too hard to tug at the viewers heart strings, but I was personally ... More

Posted by Film Buff at 18:44, 14 July 2008 | Report This Post


The Painted Veil

I thought it was OK, but overall it was a bit uninspiring. It was well shot, every one involved gave decent performances and I liked the score, but it was a little bit too restrained, everyone involved was a little bit too stiff upper lip to make the audience really care what happens by the end (which was too predictable, you could tell what kind of ending we were in line for a third of the way through). ... More

Posted by Indio at 23:47, 26 February 2008 | Report This Post


Solid Drama

It features Oscar worthy performances from the entire cast, and great production design and scenery. 4/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Naweed_1 at 16:59, 04 May 2007 | Report This Post


The Painted Veil’s chief appeal is its old-school virtue of a good yarn well told. If you approach the film from that perspective, you’ll be rewarded with an exercise in heritage cinema which is unexpectedly powerfully emotional . Stunning scenery and superior acting result in a period romance that combines the intimate with the epic. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 20:58, 02 May 2007 | Report This Post


RE: The Painted Veil

I Found it to be a great film, which is beautifully shot and beautifully acted. Toby Jones is once again fantastic, although we can expect no less from him. I Didnt really like John Currans' previous effort, but I thought this was a lot more accomplished, and although I've never read the book, I thought the story was excellent, the production design and cinematography stunning, and the acting uniformly great. Very Good film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Crazy_Eddie at 19:19, 01 May 2007 | Report This Post


RE: The Painted Veil

Very beautiful to look at but felt very rushed towards the end. Whilst Kitty and Walter's relationship found redemption and love, the other facts of the story such as the nationalist threat and the cholera seemed forgotten and left by the wayside. Essentially a by the numbers period romance that is beautiful to look at but loses the scope that the likes of The English Patient had. *** ... More

Posted by Timon at 11:33, 30 April 2007 | Report This Post


RE: The Painted Veil

I think the Empire review is more or less right.  I have been looking forward to this film for some time and although, I wasn't disappointed, I wasn't exactly blown away. Edward Norton, as bacteriologist Walter Frane, plays the role well as an inarticulate, cool, emotionally distant man who falls in love with Kitty, a spoilt society girl somewhat inexplicably.  The character arc as Frane goes into the cholera region is drawn out nicely and Norton plays the nuances well enough to ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Groovy Mule at 00:14, 29 April 2007 | Report This Post


The Painted Veil

As the starting credits roll and I see that not only are Naomi Watts and Edward Norton starring in this movie, they also produced it. My heart sinks as several previous examples of vanity projects flit through my mind. Thankfully I most pleasantly surprised. The Painted Veil is a long, cool drink of water. If you will forgive me labouring the metaphor: though indeed long and cool, like such a drink, it is also refreshing. Reminiscent of films not often made anymore, such as Out of Africa, t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ratnapath at 12:39, 26 April 2007 | Report This Post


I have to say I loved it too. Norton and Watts are fantastic, as is Liev Schreiber. I do want to see the origincal version though, I've only seen it dubbed. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shotlandka at 10:34, 07 April 2007 | Report This Post


SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Future Of Film: The Streaming Services Will Be Major Studios
(Or how Hollywood will have to start worrying about Netflix)

The Empire Podcast #129: Liam Neeson Interview
Plus Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth, Holliday Grainger and Jessica Brown Findlay drop by to talk The Riot Club

The Future Of Film: We'll Be Watching Films In Virtual Reality
Immerse cinema aims to become the must-have experience for the filmgoers of the future

The Future Of Film: Cinema Will Cross The Uncanny Valley
The future of VFX, from believable digital humans to underwater mocap

The Future Of Film: There Will Be Another Indie Golden Age
Independent producers are growing from micro-budgets to something a lot bigger

Empire's Epic Interstellar Subscribers' Cover
The countdown begins to Christopher Nolan's sci-fi masterpiece

Shut Up, World! Gary Busey Is Talking!
Strap yourselves in and meet a true Hollywood original.

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)